A caretaker government is a temporary ad hoc government that performs some governmental duties and functions in a country until a regular government is elected or formed.[1][2] Depending on specific practice, it consists of either randomly selected members of parliament or outgoing members until their dismissal.

Caretaker governments in representative democracies are usually limited in their function, serving only to maintain the status quo, rather than truly govern and propose new legislation. Unlike the government it is meant to temporarily replace, a caretaker government does not have a legitimate mandate (electoral approval) to exercise aforementioned functions.


Caretaker governments may be put in place when a government in a parliamentary system is defeated in a motion of no confidence, or in the case when the house to which the government is responsible is dissolved, to be in place for an interim period until an election is held and a new government is formed. In this sense, in some countries which use a Westminster system of government, the caretaker government is simply the incumbent government, which continues to operate in the interim period between the normal dissolution of parliament for the purpose of holding an election and the formation of a new government after the election results are known. Unlike in ordinary times, the caretaker government's activities are limited by custom and convention.

In systems where coalition governments are frequent a caretaker government may be installed temporarily while negotiations to form a new coalition take place. This usually occurs either immediately after an election in which there is no clear victor or if one coalition government collapses and a new one must be negotiated.[3] Caretaker governments are expected to handle daily issues and prepare budgets for discussion, but are not expected to produce a government platform or introduce controversial bills.

A caretaker government is often set up following a war until stable democratic rule can be restored, or installed, in which case it is often referred to as a provisional government.

Caretaker governments associated with elections

Many countries are administered by a caretaker government during election periods, such as:

Other countries that use similar mechanisms include Canada,[4] and New Zealand.

Caretaker governments associated with wars or new regimes

Main article: Provisional government


See also: Widow's succession

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Heads of caretaker governments are often referred to as a "caretaker" head, for example "caretaker prime minister".

Similarly, but chiefly in the United States, caretakers are individuals who fill seats in government temporarily without ambitions to continue to hold office on their own.[5] This is particularly true with regard to United States senators who are appointed to office by the governor of their state following a vacancy created by the death or resignation of a sitting senator.[6] Sometimes governors wish to run for the seat themselves in the next election but do not want to be accused of unfairness by arranging their own appointments in the interim. Also, sometimes they do not wish to be seen as taking sides within a group of party factions or prejudicing of a primary election by picking someone who is apt to become an active candidate for the position. At one time, widows of politicians were often selected as caretakers to succeed their late husbands; in a phenomenon known as "widow’s succession."

At the beginning of the 20th century, it was one of the most effective ways of getting women into Congress, even though the widow may have originally only been supposed to act as a placeholder for her dead husband and was only expected to serve for a brief period.[7] The widows may have been selected to honor the deceased member, tap voters’ sympathy, or exploit name recognition to hold onto a seat while more conventional candidates prepared for the real campaign. It also may have helped some of the women grieve and make up for the sudden loss of income in a world where few worked outside the home. Among first-time candidates for the US House of Representatives from 1916 to 1993, 84% of the widows won, while only 14% of other women were victorious. The trend was strongest when women were rarer in politics; 35 of the 95 women who served in Congress through 1976 were congressional wives first.[8] Political scientist Diane Kincaid wrote that "statistically, at least, for women aspiring to serve in Congress, the best husband has been a dead husband." Academics Lisa Solowiej and Thomas L. Brunell called it "arguably the single most important historical method for women to enter Congress."[9]

Nevertheless, this custom is rarely exercised today, as it could be viewed by some as nepotism.

In Canada and most other English-speaking countries, the more widely accepted term in this context is interim, as in interim leader. In Italy, this kind of premier is the President of Government of Experts.

List of caretaker individuals

The following is a list of individuals who have been considered caretaker (or provisional or interim) heads of state or heads of government:

Heads of state

Heads of government

19th century and earlier
20th century
21st century

See also


  1. ^ "CARETAKER GOVERNMENT (noun) definition and synonyms - Macmillan Dictionary". www.macmillandictionary.com.
  2. ^ "CARETAKER GOVERNMENT - meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary". dictionary.cambridge.org.
  3. ^ Hasanuzzaman, Al Masud (2012). "Caretaker Government". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  4. ^ Sinha, Awanish; Lefton, Hartley; Iarusso, Amanda; Kanji, Adam (August 12, 2021). "What you need to know about the caretaker convention". www.mccarthy.ca. McCarthy Tétrault. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  5. ^ "Who is a caretaker Prime Minister? - Jaran Josh". April 5, 2022.
  6. ^ "How do states fill vacancies in the U.S. Senate? It depends on the state - Pew Research Center". May 3, 2022.
  7. ^ "Widow's Succession: How Women First Gained a Foothold in Congress". United States Capitol Historical Society.
  8. ^ "Widows of Bono, Capps Are on Well-Worn Path to Office". Los Angeles Times. January 26, 1998.
  9. ^ Solowiej, Brunell, Lisa, Thomas (September 2003). "The Entrance of Women to the U.S. Congress: The Widow Effect". Political Research Quarterly. 56 (3): 283–292. doi:10.1177/106591290305600304. S2CID 153981256.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "Profile of Mr. Wasim Sajjad". Story of Pakistan. 1 June 2003. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  11. ^ "Soomro takes over as Pak President". Press Trust of India. 18 August 2008. Retrieved 16 January 2013.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Motlanthe: South Africa's safe hands BBC News, 25 September 2008
  13. ^ Slaughter, Graham (January 21, 2021). "Canada's top judge is now Governor General, but expert urges speedy replacement". CTVNEWS.
  14. ^ "Government continues as acting government". 24 October 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  15. ^ "Italy's Mattarella dissolves parliament, election set for 25 September". euronews. 2022-07-21. Retrieved 2022-08-22.